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Two local women's quilts place high in contest

by Franny White

STAFF WRITER

The beautiful, traditional art form that has brought endless peace and creativity to many West Virginians also recently brought a little recognition for two women from our region.

The carefully stitched handiwork of Elwanda Dennison of Quiet Dell and Judy Tenney of Buckhannon will be on display at the Cultural Center in Charleston through Sept. 15 after their quilts placed well in the Quilts 2000 juried quilt exhibit last April.

Dennison's quilt, titled 'Golden Double Wedding Ring,' was a complex twist on the traditional double wedding ring pattern with an incredible 3,525 pieces, and placed first in the pieced category. The Cultural Center also chose her quilt from the exhibit's 25 hung entries to be purchased for the Center's quilt collection.

"It's a once in a lifetime opportunity," Dennison said of her placement in Quilts 2000.

Tenney's 'Baltimore Album' quilt took second place in the appliquéd category for its intricately appliquéd fabric flowers and vine border.

The two women may have gained the spotlight for their accomplishments in Quilts 2000, but both say that's not the only reason they quilt.

"If you have a really stressful afternoon and you sit down to quilt, you feel just energized," Tenney said. "Just 15 minutes of quilting is all I need. It's cheaper than therapy."

Dennison agrees full-heartily.

"I can sit and quilt and relax," Dennison said. "And if it would be possible, you could solve all the problems in the world (quilting)."

That's because quilting takes time and concentration. Dennison said it took a year and three months to finish her detailed quilt. And Tenney said it is usually two years after the first stitch is sewn until her quilts are complete.

The most intensive part of quilting is the actual piecing, or sewing together the different fabric pieces into a meaningful pattern. After, batting and a back fabric is added and carefully sewn together in a pattern.

Just as a new patch is added to the quilt, Dennison and Tenney say they can neatly put into place solutions for their problems. When Tenney's husband was in the hospital with lung cancer, quilting helped her pass the time.

Both began quilting over a decade ago, after the lure and challenge of piecing together small patches into a large, meaningful artform caught their attention. Although Tenney has tried many crafts in her lifetime, she said quilting is the one she's the most dedicated to.

"I've stuck with it longer than any of the other things," Tenney said. "It's most challenging."

For their husbands, the quilting hobby is more than challenging for the skill it requires.

"My husband says he gets overwhelmed," Tenney said. After 15 years of quilting, just about every wall in their home has a quilt hanging on it.

"I hate to put them in closets, but I have so many I can't display them at once," Tenney explained.

Dennison and her husband have a unique arrangement: She can have her quilting, and he can have his hunting cabin.

"There's times when he's around the house long enough that I say, 'shouldn't you go to the cabin?'" Dennison said.

Maybe, just maybe, beyond showcasing West Virginia's artistic talents, quilting has also saved a few marriages along the way.

Dennison and Tenney were among 40 West Virginians that entered the Quilts 2000 exhibit. Of those 40, 25 were chosen by Jane Hall from Raleigh, N.C., a qualified quilt judge from the National Quilter's Association, for being "the cream of the crop" and were hung for display, according the Stephanie Lily, the Cultural Center's exhibits coordinator. Between the 25 chosen, 14 received honors.

The Cultural Center, which also houses the state museum and archives in Charleston, has held a juried quilt exhibit for about 20 years, Lily said.

Staff writer Franny White can be reached at 626-1443.

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